One of boxing's original eight weight classes, the welterweight division has long provided the sport with many memorable contests. Through the decades the 147-pounders have provided ring fans with countless outstanding performances. In some cases, as you'll see, the division produced thrilling multi-fight rivalries that remain an indelible part of boxing lore.
|Griffith (left) pummeled a helpless Paret, who was unable to fall because both his arms rested on the ropes. It cost him his life. (AP)|
Jack Britton-Ted "Kid" Lewis
Two men dominated the welterweight division from 1915 to 1922 -- Jack Britton of Boston and Britain's Ted "Kid" Lewis. They fought each other 20 times for a total of 224 rounds and traded the title back and forth four times. The majority of their fights were No Decision bouts. In those during which a verdict was rendered, Britton won four, Lewis won three and there was one draw.
In their first meeting, Aug. 31, 1915, Lewis, whose real name was Gershon Mendeloff, defeated Britton to gain universal recognition of the welterweight title. Lewis made five successful title defenses before Britton regained the title via 20-round decision April 24, 1916 in New Orleans. Britton then made three title defenses (two against Lewis) before Lewis took back the title, again over 20 rounds, June 25, 1917 in Dayton, Ohio. Lewis then held onto the crown for one defense before Britton knocked him out in nine rounds in March 17, 1919 in Canton, Ohio. It was the only one of their title fights that did not last the distance.
They would fight twice more. Later in 1919 they went eight rounds in another No Decision fight and in 1921 Britton closed the series with a 15-round decision.
Barney Ross-Jimmy McLarnin
One of the most celebrated boxing trilogies took place between Hall-of-Famers Barney Ross and Jimmy McLarnin. They battled three times for a total of 45 rounds within one year. Each contest was close. The first two were decided via split decision and the third by a disputed verdict.
In an era that accentuated ethnic rivalries, a considerable amount of attention was paid to this Irish-Jewish rivalry. McLarnin, whose nickname was "The Baby-Faced Assassin," had a string of victories over top Jewish fighters, including Al Singer and Benny Leonard.
Their first meeting took place on May 28, 1934 at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, N.Y. McLarnin entered the ring as welterweight champ while Ross was the reigning lightweight and junior welterweight titleholder. Each fighter knocked the other down in round nine and Ross won his third title via split decision. The scores for Ross were 13-1-1 and 12-2-1. Meanwhile, the judge who voted for McLarnin had it 9-1-5. Four months later, at the same venue, it was McLarnin who regained the crown with a split decision.
The final meeting took place at the Polo Grounds on May 28, 1935, exactly one year after their first meeting. As in their previous encounters, the battle was fast-paced and Ross was awarded the decision. The referee, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, somehow managed to score seven of the 15 rounds even.
Emile Griffith and Benny Paret
The trilogy between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret was fierce and there was real animus between the two fighters, and unfortunately, it ended in tragedy. In their first meeting -- April 1, 1961 -- Griffith captured the welterweight title with a 13th-round knockout. They met again six months later and this time Paret took back his belt with a narrow split decision.
Paret, from Cuba, failed in a bid to capture the middleweight crown before returning to the 147-pound ranks to meet Griffith a third time. This meeting took place on March 24, 1962 at Madison Square Garden. At the weigh-in Paret made derisive remarks about Griffith and questioned the New Yorker's manhood.
The foes were quite familiar with each other and wasted little time mixing it up. Paret nearly ended the fight in round six, when Griffith was saved by the bell after absorbing a multi-punch combination. Nothing could save Paret from what was about to happen in the 12th round.
Griffith backed Paret into a corner and had him in trouble after landing a series of hooks and uppercuts. Paret was hanging defenseless on the ropes as referee Ruby Goldstein hesitated, allowing Griffith to prolong the attack.
Perhaps part of Goldstein's lack of action was due to the fact that Paret often feigned injury, hoping to catch overanxious opponents on the way in. But this wasn't an act and by the time Goldstein intervened, Paret was slumping to the canvas. Paret never regained consciousness. He lapsed into a coma and died 10 days after the fight.
Courtesy International Boxing Hall of Fame
Robert Cassidy is a boxing writer/author based in New York.